Into the wild

Red Wolf Sanctuary will relocate
with help of Historic Hoosier Hills

Paul Strasser cares for injured
exotic animals at his Dillsboro farm

By Konnie McCollum
Contributing Writer

DILLSBORO, Ind. (July 2006) – Dearborn County has been home for 27 years to a wildlife sanctuary that houses abandoned and abused black bears, injured birds of prey, endangered wolves, hurt foxes and coyotes, and even a mistreated cougar and bobcat.

Paul Strasser

Photo by Konnie McCollum

Paul Strasser rehabilitates
injured and mistreated animals.

The Red Wolf Sanctuary, a 22-acre facility run by Paul and Jane Strasser in Dillsboro, Ind., has taken in and cared for hundreds of animals throughout the years that have been mistreated or injured and need a place for rehabilitation or permanent care.
Red Wolf Sanctuary is relocating to a much larger site in Ohio County, near the city of Rising Sun. Located off of Hwy. 262, the land was formerly called “The Old Buffalo Ranch.” The new facility will protect 452 acres of undeveloped land and natural resources and offer numerous educational opportunities, Paul Strasser said.
The Strassers used an inheritance from Paul’s mother to purchase the new land. Then an anonymous donor gave Red Wolf Sanctuary $1 million to help build the new facility. The project will need another $2.5 million to finish building the new place, so they have applied for various grants with the assistance of Historic Hoosier Hills Resource, Conservation and Development Inc.
Throughout the years, Historic Hoosier Hills has helped the Strassers seek funding, fill out grant applications and obtain grants to keep Red Wolf Sanctuary running. The organization also has helped oversee and manage employees of the sanctuary.
The Red Wolf Sanctuary has been a nonprofit organization since 1979. Its mission has been to preserve North American wildlife through environmental education and rehabilitate injured and orphaned wildlife. Paul Strasser, who holds a degree in Fish and Wildlife Management from Montana State University and a master’s in education from the University of Cincinnati, believes that education is the key to preserving our natural resources.

Red Wolf Santuary Location

“Teaching kids about nature instills values that transcend classroom learning,” he said.
Strasser said that some lessons just cannot be taught in schools. He gave an example of how teaching children about animal behavior helps them relate to their own problems. He described the social behavior of teenage animals as being similar to that of human teenagers. Strasser said that teenage wolves have some of the same problems as teenage humans, such as social interaction issues and immature behavior. In wolf society, 80 percent of teens die because of some social problem.
By studying how teenage wolves learn and develop, human teens can learn that irresponsible behavior or bad decisions can have adverse affects for any teen, he said.
Although Red Wolf Sanctuary has entertained thousands of schoolchildren throughout its history, it recently has been asked to stop allowing tours because of the type of animals it houses. Previously, permits by the state of Indiana to possess the animals were sufficient to allow educational tours and lectures. The sanctuary has U.S. Fish and Wildlife permits for rehabilitation and for the use of some of the animals for education. However, state officials will not allow Class III wild animals, such as bears, wildcats and wolves, to be used for educational purposes without a permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. So in order to become USDA approved, Red Wolf Sanctuary is moving to a larger site.
The first phase of the building project includes finishing 100 acres of the land for the animals to live in their natural habitats. Since education is one of the major goals of the project, plans to build a two-story education center with classrooms and display rooms are under way. There will also be a complete raptor center and various ecosystems, including an aquarium ecosystem with fish and wildlife native to Indiana and the surrounding area.


Photos by Konnie McCollum

A bear is among the exotic animals
at Red Wolf Sanctuary.

When the new facility opens at the end of this summer, tours will be offered by appointment only. There will be membership plans available, and access to hiking and possibly horseback riding will be available for members only.
At this point, land is being cleared, a road has been put in, and the prairie ecosystem has been started. It takes three to five years for a prairie ecosystem to get established, so it had to get started early in the project. Unfortunately, large amounts of trash have had to be cleared from the land, which has suffered some environmental abuse. Architectural plans are being designed for the site’s buildings and other ecosystems.
Because Red Wolf Sanctuary needs to be off its previous site by summer’s end, priority has been placed on building the special fencing needed to allow the animals to roam in their spaces. Thousands of various trees need to be planted and other necessary work needs to be done in order to begin moving the animals to their new homes.
Strasser said that much of the work is being done by volunteers, but many more are needed. He is encouraging Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, 4-H clubs, church groups and other environmentally concerned clubs to come help get the site ready. Volunteering at the sanctuary is a great community project. Anyone willing to lend a hand in building fences or planting trees is more than welcome to help out, Strasser said, and those interested in an internship or volunteering to work at the new sanctuary should contact it.
Red Wolf Sanctuary is a 501-c3 charity. It takes a lot of money to keep the sanctuary running, Strasser said. Much of the funding Red Wolf receives is used to simply feed the animals. With just one black bear able to eat 30 pounds of meat a day, the costs for feeding an entire sanctuary of large carnivores adds up quickly.
One way the sanctuary helps defray food costs is an agreement with the road department in which more than 300 road-kill corpses are delivered to the property each year. The agreement helps both parties involved alleviate budgeting constraints. The biggest source of funding for the sanctuary is private donations.

• Paul Strasser of the Red Wolf Sanctuary will visit the Switzerland County Public Library with a live owl at 6 p.m. This is an educational event for children of all ages. July 18. The library is located at 205 Ferry St., in Vevay. Call (812) 427-3363.

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